There’s not a lot of mountain climbing happening in Minnesota. But it was his upbringing in Detroit Lakes — visiting national parks and skiing with his family — that set Eddie Taylor up to join the first all-Black team of climbers training to take on Mount Everest next year.
“I ran track in high school and I ended up going to Colorado and walking on the track team,” Taylor said during a conversation with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer. “Being out here next to the mountains, there’s lots and lots of climbing, lots of mountain area and lots of rock climbing, and I just kind of got sucked in after finishing up sports and college.”
Taylor is now a high school science teacher and track coach in Colorado and is training with the Full Circle, a group of nine Black climbers who hope to make the trek up Everest next spring.
Led by veteran climber Phil Henderson, there are five other Black men on the team with Taylor, including Moanoah Ainuu, Fred Campbell, Dom Mullins, Thomas Moore and KG Kagambi, a native of Kenya. Abby Dione and Rosemary Saal finish off the group of nine as the two Black women climbers on the team.
It was a chance meeting with Henderson, the leader of the expedition, at a dog park in western Colorado that set Taylor up for this next adventure.
“There’s not a lot of Black people out there in that part of Colorado,” he said. “I was walking my dog and we just ran into each other, we started to chat. And then we actually went ice climbing later on that day and ran into each other again.”
Of the 10,000 climbers who have summited Everest, only 10 were Black, he said. The Full Circle Everest team hopes to not only increase those numbers next year but increase awareness and access to the outdoors for people of color.
“I was lucky, I was privileged, I got to go outside,” Taylor said of his upbringing in Minnesota. “I got taken national parks, I learned to ski at a young age, but I think that’s not typical for other climbers of color.”
Taylor said there are a lot of factors that go into the low numbers of Black climbers but one big issue is the lack of stories showing the success of these outdoor athletes.
“It makes it really, really difficult to go do something that you don’t see other people from your background do,” he said.
The team plans to head to the Himalayas on March 20 and return in early June, he said.
In the meantime, Taylor said he is focusing on increasing the weight of his pack while climbing so in the New Year he can add to his mileage as the team prepares for the 70-day adventure.
Taylor said he knows it is a dangerous endeavor. But as climbing became a more important part of his life, his goals for climbing increased. This trip has become a now attainable goal for the climber but he said the added importance of the message behind the team of climbers is an added bonus.
“Just to help inspire that next generation and to show that things are possible for people in our community makes it worth it,” he said.
The Full Circle Everest Expedition is supported by The Greening Youth Foundation but is also raising money to cover the costs of travel and support for the team.